The Columbia River Treaty, an international agreement governing the flow of water between British Columbia and six U.S. states, will be 55 years old this year. It has not aged well. The river springs from the Columbia Icefield in the Rocky Mountains of B.C. and winds 1,930 kilometres through the Northwestern United States – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. No other river in North America spills more water into the Pacific Ocean.
The tiny Forest City dam on the border between Maine and New Brunswick doesn't look like much more than a pile of rusting iron and aged lumber. Plants and weeds grow throughout the rock-and-crib-style dam, which is home to a family of weasels, a rudimentary passage for fish and is used in summer by local kids to float inner tubes through its gates. The dam itself doesn't generate electricity. It was built to help loggers float their timber to local mills. But its three gates have maintained the waters of East Grand Lake on New Brunswick's western border at consistent levels for almost 180 years.
Those concerns have grown since testing revealed elevated levels of PFAS chemicals, including PFOA, in the groundwater near an unlined, closed portion of the landfill. Those chemicals are used in industrial applications. Conservation Law Foundation is asking Vermont to delay the permit application process until that testing is complete.
The agreement reached between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Canadian province of Manitoba sets up a team with Canadian representation to oversee treatment and monitoring of the river water, and among other duties help develop an emergency response plan. The team also is to have representatives of the state and federal governments south of the border, and is to meet at least once a year.